COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed climate change: UN

Unless urgent climate action is taken, the world could be in for catastrophic changes, according to a UN report
Photo: NOAA NCEI Climate
@NOAANCEIclimate / Twitter
Photo: NOAA NCEI Climate @NOAANCEIclimate / Twitter

Photo: NOAA NCEI Climate @NOAANCEIclimate / Twitter

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic caused only a temporary downturn in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions last year, a recently-released United Nations report has said.

Concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continued to increase last year and during the first half of this year, the report titled, United in Science 2021, added.

Fossil fuel emissions from coal, gas, cement, etc were back to 2019 levels or even higher in 2021, the report said.

Fossil CO2 emissions from coal, oil, gas and cement peaked at 36.64 gigatonne carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2) in 2019. They then dropped significant drop to 1.98 GtCO2, a decrease of 5.6 per cent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were other worrying findings.

Global emissions in the power and industry sectors were already at the same level or higher in January-July 2021 than in the same period in 2019. Emissions from road transport remained about five per cent lower.

Global mean sea levels rose 20 cm from 1900 to 2018.

An excess of 103 billion potential work hours were lost globally in 2019, compared to 2000.  This was due to heat-related mortality and work impairment, caused by rising temperatures.

High latitude regions and the Sahel are likely to be wetter over 2021–2025, than the recent past.

The report noted that the average global temperature for the past five years was among the highest on record.

It added that there was an increasing likelihood that temperatures would temporarily breach the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era, in the next five years.

“We have reached a tipping point on the need for climate action. The disruption to our climate and our planet is already worse than we thought and it is moving faster than predicted,” UN secretary-general António Guterres said in a video message.

The report called on more countries to develop long-term strategies that were consistent with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

It added that net-zero commitments needed to be translated into strong near-term policies and action.

The report, the third in a series, was prepared jointly by the World Meteorological Organization, with inputs from the UN Environment Programme, World Health Organization, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Global Carbon Project, World Climate Research Programme and the Met Office (UK).

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